Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Special Intelligence Report from Egypt

Agent:  Mr. Mumford


My assignment to Egypt in July, 2013 has come at an opportune time when the leadership is changing hands at a rapid pace.  I have come to see that our country's interests cannot rely on any particular regime, but rather we must find a way to gauge popular sentiment in Egypt and align ourselves with the Egyptian masses.

Who are the Egyptians?

Firstly, it's good to clarify that the people who inhabit Egypt now are not the same as the Ancient Egyptians.  My original suitcase held only linen kilts and ornamental headdresses.  Since my body type is not that of Yul Brenner, I was relieved to get updated information which named the galabiya as the new national style of dress.

The galabiya actually is a dress.  I'm not against men dressing like women, but I wasn't interested in doing it myself.  Yet, as an agent I perform my duties to the utmost.  I only ask that any and all photographs and videos of me in the galabiya will be handled with sensitivity.

Arriving at JFK wearing the galabiya was not perhaps the wisest choice.  Airport Security certainly does their job well, which I can attest to after my full body search.  All my documents carried the name, "Mohamed Tutankhamun" and that might have tipped them off to pay special attention to me.


Upon arriving at Cairo International Airport, I soon learned that, despite the Egyptian's ability to build a Pyramid, they cannot form a line.  This is a weakness we could capitalize on.

I also question their sense of hearing.  Immediately, I began detecting higher decibels.  It is as if the volume control on the society was set at 11.  This is true whatever the emotional component; whether sad, happy, tired, excited, bored, etc. they all yell.  Whole conversations are held in a yell.  Is there a chance that a whole nation has sustained hearing loss?  If so, perhaps we can use that to our advantage by transmitting low decibel subliminal messages which only non-Egyptians could hear.

I soon learned, from my baggage handler, that the galabiya I was wearing was inappropriate as it had embroidered flowers.  Apparently, men's galabiyas do not have such decorations.  Could our fact checkers please add that to the Egypt Information?  

Also, being on the road at 5:00 is not wise.  The nation is in a gridlock.  Special Agent Basem Yousef has since informed us that the people occupy the streets from 3:30 to 5:30 each day.  There is no conceivable way that any operation in Cairo could be successful during these hours.

Meeting People

From my taxi driver, I learned that the only Arabic words you really need to use are "Asalamu Alaykom," "Alhumdulillah," and "Inshahallah."  When in doubt, laugh.  For some reason, as much as the Egyptians yell, they also laugh.  

It is not known why they vary their moods between these extremes.  Is there a chance the whole nation could be suffering from a bi-polar disorder?  If so, slipping Prozac into their water supply could be an option.  The Nile is right there for us to utilize.

After settling into my hotel room, as "Mr. Tutankhamun," I went to the gift shop and tried to buy different attire.  I found none of the plain galabiyas for men.  I was then instructed by the young shop clerk where to find more suitable clothing for my Cairo stay.  I left the hotel for a local establishment and purchased a tight pink lyrca T-shirt, skinny jeans and high tops.  The shirt, ironically, had "FBI" written on it but in small letter underneath it was written "Female Body Inspector".

I also bought aviator sunglasses. I have come to see how Egyptians trust men wearing these shades.  One of the most trusted men in Egypt is Army Commander C.C. and he is seldom without his.  Singers Tamer Hosny and Amr Diab  are also outfitted with these.

I need to mention a correction to the information given to me about greetings.  While it is alright for a man to hug and kiss the checks of another man, I have learned it is not alright for a man to do this with a woman.  I had a problem at the local coffee shop which I wouldn't want anyone else to endure.  It's a good thing I was no longer in that galabiya, as I had to make a run for it. 

I went with my new gear to one of the most strategic positions in Giza.  You may be surprised to learn that the Pyramids are not actually in Cairo.  Please amend the Fact Guide on this point.  Giza has the Pyramids.  Perhaps due to its former influx of foreigners, it also has some of the fiercest fighters surrounding it.

I am not talking about the Security Guards.  The carriage drivers and souvenir sellers are brutal in their struggle for a sale.  I feared for my life several times.  I've served all over the world for the agency but this was one of the toughest assignments I've ever faced.  If Disney World is, "the happiest place on earth," then Giza's Pyramids must be, "the place on earth you'll be the happiest to leave".  

I've learned that many Egyptians think they know English but few actually do.  My conversations in English soon devolved into caveman-like gutturals.  We can use this to our advantage by having our Embassy send out announcements with a higher level of vocabulary that only our countrymen can understand.

Upon returning to my hotel, I tried the internet to see what was happening with the locals on Twitter.  Maybe I could meet some of these revolutionaries.  I've since learned that relatively few Egyptians are using computers for anything except playing games and surfing Facebook.  Those who do use Twitter are not listening to alternative ideas and are not interested in dialogue.  They will not prove useful.  

 Facebook seems to be a better venue for expression.  Apparently, there has been a political revolution which started on Facebook.  We may need to look into this allegation.  Have our fact checkers look up, "Hosny Mubarak."


I am concerned that this "Mubarak" may be a big influence on the people.  Also, there are two other men who work with him.  One is named, "Ramadan," and the other is named, "Kareem".  The people talk about these men often.  Mubarak is either locked in prison or in a hospital.  It's important to mention that he also wears the dark glasses.  

There's another man the people talk about and that's "Morsi".  I am very unclear who he is.  Some people say he is president while others say he is "homar".  The meaning of that word is "donkey".  I am thinking he is connected to the American Democrats who use a donkey as their symbol.  We need to look into this.

I'm not sure why but Morsi is another leader which the people seem to have misplaced.  No one knows where he is.  Are they lying?  How can a whole nation not know where their president is?  Even if he is a donkey, wouldn't the people want to know where their donkey is?  

The ones who support Morsi are in the street.  They are the more religious faction and wave flags hoping for a sign from above that he is still their leader.  When they see airplanes above them drawing hearts, they believe that their prayers have been answered.  Many of them yell out, "Si!  Si!" I take this to mean both "Yes" in Spanish and the last syllable of Mor-SI.  

There is some proof that his opponents are flocking to the streets carrying his picture and even wearing masks of his likeness.  This is in an effort to fool the public.  When the confusion is at its height, they shoot themselves.  The Egyptian channels are a great source of information about this phenomenon.  I have come to rely on their expertise.


Egyptians love television.  It is on during the day, night, and through every meal.  It's on in every restaurant and coffee shop.  It's on even in the taxi cabs and buses.  Taking control of the television stations is key.  It will be best to program any messages from us through beautiful women with big hair, lots of make-up and disco outfits as they have a magnetic affect on the male viewers.  

Any nightly news report on television will describe the drug use of hashish and "bongo".  Bongo are large leaves of stuffed cabbage; the smaller versions are called "mashy".  While these seem to be the problem, there is another addiction I feel we can utilize better.

Egyptians need tea.  They don't just want tea; they need it like a narcotic.  Hashish and bongo may only be on one societal level but tea or "chai" is among all levels and all ages.  Taking away their chai would be crippling.  It would only be a matter of hours before the whole country would come begging for a cup.  This is good leverage for us to have ---especially considering the Suez Canal situation.  

Sugar is another weak point.  The tea needs sugar.  Actually, at times it is more like the cup of sugar needs a little tea.  The drinks all have extra sugar.  I have learned that the formulas for soft drinks in Egypt all have higher levels of sugar in comparison to their Western counterparts.  Candy consumption starts young and takes place throughout the day.  All you have to do is look at the teeth of the Egyptians to realize that sugar has been rotting away their back molars for years.  Dentists are not intervening.  We could investigate further how to capitalize on this fact.

Bags of chips are also important to the Cairo community.  Whole families leave a dinner table of freshly prepared food in favor of consuming a bag a chips in the street.  Later, when the bag is emptied, the bag is left on the ground so as to mark the area as being sacred.

In Conclusion

My overnight in Egypt, though short, was invaluable.  I believe I fully understand the Egyptian mindset now.  I am grateful for my time really getting to know the people and the place.  I've been reading Thomas Friedman articles to clear up any misconceptions.

Identifying the modern (not Ancient) Egyptians means that we can manipulate them better.  They have many weaknesses despite displays of strength.  This is the right time to infiltrate their society and bring about our agenda.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ramadan Action: Get Real

Asalamu Alaykom,

We're getting closer to the end of our month.  It's about time that we all let go of what we haven't yet.  We've all got some lies we carry around because we think they make life easier to enjoy.

Time to stop lying and get real.

  • First of all, that's not a real lemon.  It's plastic.  It's never grown on a tree.  It's going to become part of a landfill for many years.  It's not cute; it's not harmless.  There's a better alternative and it's from nature; from Allah.  Many things in life seem benign but are actually caustic.

  • No one sees you running all that water in the bathroom but it's happening.  There's no way everyone in your town could do that and still have enough clean drinking water.  So many people around the world die from unclean water that we should be grateful for what we have and conserve it.  Do you know that Rasullulah (pbuh) made ghusl; the ritual cleansing after intercourse with only three cups of water?  

  • Believing that animals wear clothes and have families that sit around the dinner table to discuss their problems is weird.  That's the Disney-fication of the animal kingdom and it prevents us from seeing our role as their caretakers.  Yes, we are responsible for the animals.  If we choose to eat them, then we need to start realizing how they are bred, housed, and slaughtered.  We need to find humane ways to eat our meat; we need to eat halal.  

  • Our children are little sponges.  They are not funny when they're off schedule, sleep-deprived, and whinny.  No one likes our kids when we haven't put effort into them.  Have some boundaries and some authority over your children because you'll have to live with them for the rest of your life.  Our children are blessings or burdens by how we nurture them.

  • Friendships with the opposite sex are dangerous.  We shouldn't delve into dangerous territory.  Step back, disentangle and be alone rather than be in trouble.   Abu Bakr (ra) said, "Solitude is better than the society of evil persons."  

  • Masturbation is unhealthy.  Yep.  It is.  It's you and your hand instead of you and a partner.  If you can't feel a sense of peace and calm about what you're doing in private, then you shouldn't be doing it at all.

  • Hating groups of people is wrong.  I don't care how easy it is to lump everyone together.  We aren't even allowed to kill all the ants in an anthill for the bite from one ant.  We are supposed to only dispose of the one who hurt us and leave the rest alone. What does that tell you about how to treat people?  We have to deal with individuals case-by-case and not as members of a group.  See how much love Allah has for each individual creation?    

I'll stop there.

There's more.

For sure, there's a LOT more.

Don't get mad at me, please.  I'm not telling you my personal orders.  These are not "Edicts from Yosra"!  I'm reminding you of the ways of Islam.

I saw a Ramadan program out of Kuwait where the doctor described the left and right hemispheres of our brain.  He said that the left hemisphere is for dogma and the right hemisphere is for spirituality.  It has become a dirty word to say, "religion" and oh-so-hip to say, "spirituality".  The truth is that we need BOTH.

You can't only spend time letting your spirit rise up to meet The Almighty.  You need to spend some time getting a firm foundation on what is true, noble, right, pure...

lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy...

OK, it's a Bible quote.  It's still groovy.  Universal truth is all good no matter the source; it all come from The Source.

So, get real with what's real and let go of the stupid stuff because it's weighing you down and filling you up with garbage.  If you're not sure if what you're doing is right or wrong, research your doubts and gain some Islamic knowledge.  Use these days that you've been pulling away from dunya to find firmer footing for your self on the right path.  You can do it inshahallah.

Love and Light!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ramadan Action: Reconcile

Asalamu Alaykom,

My mother told me tonight that one of her dearest friends has passed away.  From Allah we come and to Allah we return.  They had both been single mothers in the 70s and both had joined seminary to become ministers in the church.  There weren't too many others in their shoes at the time and they bonded.  Our families spent a lot of time together.  

Eventually, they fell out of their friendship.  They bickered.  They quarreled.  They disagreed.  However you want to put it, they hadn't talked in years.  When my mother was cleaning out a junk drawer she found an old card from this friend.  She remembered the love.  When my mother went to look for her old friend, she found out that this lady had passed away in the spring.  Time had passed and time waits for no man...nor any woman.

They never reconciled.  There is a sadness in my mother tonight which cannot be fixed on this earth.  Think who you cannot bear to lose without telling them you love them.  Tell them now without needing a response back.

I remember when I faced the death of a friend.  The Spring of 2000 was truly a turning point in my life.  I knew Robin more through the 'net and phone calls than from meeting in person.  We maybe only met a handful of times.  When she died, I went to her home because her husband said she had left something for me.

There was the couch were she had stayed convalescing from cancer treatment.  There was the TV.  All around the room were books and books about the TV show we both loved.  I was going to get her treasure trove of videos, fan magazines, books and clippings.  Her husband...her a big moving carton and helped me pile it in.  He didn't want it.  None of what she had spent decades of her life procuring was staying in her home.

During the time I was going through her collection, I saw her preteen son in the kitchen by the stove.  I stopped what I was doing and went to see if I could help him.  He didn't know how to cook that frozen pizza in his hands.  I helped him in this cheerful, kind way because I would want someone to do that for my son.  I had a young son at the time. I had a little daughter.

I lugged that box home and went through each piece.  It took me months of my life to catalog it all.  I got an actual high from seeing all those TV stars I loved.

Then, something snapped in me.  I thought of myself dying at 42 with a big box of stuff that my husband wouldn't want and a son who didn't have a mother.  I thought of how I wasn't who I wanted to be.  I needed to reconcile the gap between who I currently was with who I wanted to be.

In many ways, that moment started the last stretch of my race to Islam.  I needed to LIVE.  I needed to be ALIVE and vibrant.  I didn't want to spend years of my life watching somebody else's fictional life on TV.  I wanted to be real and really be ME.

I stopped watching so much TV.  I started taking walks around the lake.  I signed up for an East Indian dance class.  I started renting Bollywood videos because I felt the joy of life when I watched them. I  learned how to cook Indian food.  I made new friends.  It was a series of steps towards me being where I am today.  Alhumdulillah.

This Ramadan night, I'm grieving that my mom lost a friend and that the world lost a lovely little lady who traveled the world teaching and ministering to those in need.  I'm thinking how her life went by very quickly and how all lives actually do go by like dust in the wind.

Dust in the Wind 
sung by Kansas

I close my eyes
Only for a moment and the moment's gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes with curiosity

Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind

Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Now don't hang on
Nothin' lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
(All we are is dust in the wind)

Dust in the wind
(Everything is dust in the wind)
Everything is dust in the wind

(In the wind)

It's a good time to reconcile ourselves to the fact that this may be our last Ramadan.

Have you been making this month work for you?  If you are feeling a disconnect, then remedy it now.

Have you filled the others around you with knowledge, joy and goodness?  Think of how the ones you love would remember you if you weren't here next year.

I hope that your energy is going towards the moments which enliven you and bring you closer to who you are as a Servant of Allah.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ramadan Action: Reflection

Asalamu Alaykom,

Is your Ramadan half over--- or half yet to be?

Reflect on that.

Is a good time to reflect on many lessons we've been learning.  There are many universal life lessons which we've been internalizing over the days and weeks.  Inshallah, I hope we're able to identify them so we can carry them with us throughout the year.

Everything is Finite

Everything is finite.  Everything has an end---except Allah.  We can see a Ramadan schedule and visualize the number of days we need to wake for suhour, pray and fast.  It's not going to last forever.  We can center ourselves on that truth and it calms us.  We'll be OK during these days because there's an end.

Our energy and endurance is finite as well.  We can't do it all!  There's a limit to our abilities.

There's limits to how much we can stuff our faces, our closets or our wallets.  Sharing feels better because we can't keep it all.  This is one reason why giving to charity at this time is so easy as we see better.

There's also a limit to our days on this earth.  Nothing lasts for forever but Allah.

Stay Balanced

Stay balanced.  We know we need to be balanced people; we need to be using moderation in everything.  During Ramadan we see that clearer.  We need rest and physical activity, spiritual connection and interaction with others, private time and public time; we can't only focus on one aspect of our lives.

We need to finely orchestrate our lives to create harmony within ourselves and within our families.

Quality not Quantity

It's about quality not quantity.  At the end of a Ramadan day, you look back and think over the best things you got done.  You think about the meaningful moments and feel contented.  Life isn't about being busy with your time but about being wise with how you use the time.

It's the same when we eat our food.  We can't eat junk to break a fast.  We need the most nutritious meals.  I would rather have a bowl of vegetable soup than a McDonald's.  Again, it's how we are able to feel afterwards in retrospect which is the clincher.  Honestly?  I could eat a whole bag of Doritos at one sitting and feel good in that moment but it wouldn't feel good when I was finished.  I would feel cheesed up and grossed out, bloated, and guilty.

We feel best when our lives are of a high quality.

Surround Yourself with Support

Surround yourself with support.  I remember days of waking up alone and scared that I'd upset my non-Muslim mother as I ate my suhour in her home.  I know that she couldn't understand my needs.  She was giving what she could but it was not what I needed.

These days, I'm in a house full of Muslims and I eat and pray together with them.  They understand me in ways my mother will never---unless she comes to Islam.  One of the reasons I didn't go to visit my mother this summer is that I couldn't imagine another Ramadan without my support here.

Don't keep knocking on the doors of those who can't really help you.  Go where you feel understood and helped.  This isn't just true for Ramadan; it's true for your life.

You Get Back What You Give

You get back what you give.  Each Ramadan shows us what we've been giving to the growing children around us.  If we have put effort into their lives, then they grow as strong Muslims who observe the month alongside us.

The lessons we gave them, the reminders, the admonishing when they were wrong were all our input.  The choice was theirs whether or not to follow.  When they find the way is one of life's biggest joys.

Subhanallah, that the same toddler who once climbed on your back as you made sujud can now stand beside you on the prayer mat.  It's a life we've been building---not just our own but that of our children.

Keep at it.  Keep believing you can make a positive difference.

Run the Marathon, Not the Sprint

Run the marathon, not the sprint.  You have to see yourself making it through a long challenge and not give up half way there.  Ramadan shows us how pacing ourselves makes the most sense.

For instance, you can read the whole Quran in a month if you read four pages every time you pray.  In order to do that, you've got to identify that as a goal ahead of time and take the steps to turn it into a reality.

Is there a goal you made for yourself this Ramadan?

Visualize what you wanted to accomplish this month and see yourself taking the steps to complete the task.  Just remember that the bigger the goal, the more steps you'll have.  If you don't make it as far as you'd like, then don't take it as a failure.  You were in training for the next time and the next time will be easier inshahallah.

These next two weeks will go by very quickly inshahallah.

May Allah make it easy on you.

May Allah accept your fasting and prayers.

And at the end of Ramadan may you be able to carry with you some lessons you learned along the way.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ramadan Action: Know What's Inside

Asalamu Alaykom,


Last week, my tweet to a reporter here about raspberry jam led me to a search for more information about pork gelatin.  He had never heard of such a thing!  Of course, hidden pork is a big concern to many people.  Vegetarians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims all avoid pork.  This site has "Clean and Unclean Products" according to Kosher standards. You can use it to understand better which products have pork.  It isn't the first time I've checked out such a list, but no matter how many times I look, I'm always surprised.

One of the saddest discoveries for me was that the crunchy corn snack Bugles have pork!  That used to be my favorite pig-out food...and I guess that's an even more appropriate name for it.  Yes, it was a real pig-out.  Astragferallah.

I saw something else on that list that needed clarifying so I started searching around more.  I soon found found this posting, "18 Most Sickening Food Ingredients".  Definitely the most shocking discovery on the list was that there's a product which uses...ready for this?  No, sit down first.  There's a product which uses a secretion from the anal glands of beavers.  I kid you not.

I'm sure you've had castoreum and not known.  Remember that yummy creme soda?  Yep.  Vanilla ice cream?  Ah-huh.  That's castoreum; a secretion from the anal glands of beavers.  Whether or not that's halal, I couldn't tell you.  I do find it incredibly gross.

We need to be aware of what we are putting into our bodies.  Lots of times we simply consume for pleasure without pausing to think if it's good for us.  Animals consume without thinking but as Muslims we need to be mindful; we have to connect our minds and bodies.  Connecting mind and body is certainly a Ramadan action.

It's worth stating that we consume, or take in, more things than food.  All of our sense are pulling the outer world inside ourselves.  It is not only what we taste; it's also what we see, hear, smell and touch.

Mr. Boo celebrated his eighth birthday and got his first mobile as a present from me.  I promised to download some songs.  He requested one he'd heard at school parties.  I loaded it but didn't really pay attention to the words until I'd hear the song after breaking my fast.

If you want to read the lyrics, then go ahead and click the link.  They are not horrible by American mainstream standards, but they are NOT what I want my young man singing.  He's eight!  I don't want him being a part of that world---not now and not ever.  I've got to have that difficult moment when I tell him that we can't allow that song.  I thought it was OK but it has nasty lyrics.

I've outlawed a song before when Korean pop sensation Psych was everywhere with Gangham Style's, "Hey, sexy lady!" The word hadn't even registered in my head but when I heard it out of my son's mouth I was shocked.  Where had he learned the word, "sexy"?  Gangham Style!

I wasn't sure if he knew what he was saying so I asked him if he knew what that word meant.  "It's a woman without a lot of clothes on."  Yep!  Time to monitor better!

Even songs you'd think would be OK because they are produced for children, need your scrutiny.  I had also loaded up one of his favorite Shrek songs, the donkey version of Livin' la Vida Loca.  Go ahead and read those lyrics.  You'll see in part:

"She's into superstition---black cats and voodoo dolls"

"She'll make you take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain."

" a bullet to your brain"

"Her lips are devil red..."

"...makes you drink champagne."

"...she'll make you go insane."

Aren't those lyrics the equivalent of beaver anal gland secretions?

Please tell me which one of those lyrics you'd like to hear out of the sweet mouth of your young child.  Sure, it's been produced for children in general but not for my child in particular---my MUSLIM child.  It's as good a time as any for him to understand that we can't allow everything into our heads; we only want those things which are good and clean and pure.

I am one step closer to not allowing mainstream music in our lives.  It's not because I'm such a prude; it's because the mainstream is so filthy.

I did find something really great for him to listen to and it's FREE! I hate to be one of those fuddy duddies muttering, "They don't make anything good for kids these day...not like the olden days..."  but if you take a look at this collection of Kiddie Record Classics from the Golden Days  I think you'll see what a difference of quality there is.  This site is FULL of amazing AMAZING top-notch recordings for kids.  Don't think that because they're old that your kid won't like them.  There are three Dr. Seuss recordings:  500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, Gerald McBoing Boing and Horton Hatches an Egg.  There's a few Bugs Bunny stories.  The readers are incredible with the likes of radio legend The Great Gildersleeve, country star Tex Ritter (the dad of "Three's Company" star John Ritter), and Hollywood stars including Shirley Temple and James Stewart.

It's isn't that we can't listen to something enjoyable---we can!

It isn't that we can't eat and drink---we can!

The point I'd like to make for this Ramadan Action is that you need to realize what's going in and question whether or not it's clean for your body and mind.  As a mother, you need to do the choosing for your child now and help them understand why we don't take in everything.  Sometimes, seeing that it's wrong for your child helps you to understand that it's bad for you too.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ramadan Action: The Modesty Spectrum

Asalamu Alaykom,

Get ready for a revolutionary idea.

I have no idea what you wear on your head and it doesn't matter; go ahead and read this regardless.  If you're a man, then you can bow out of this conversation because I'm really directing this at the women readers.  Some of you choose to wear hijab and some of you don't.  It's a heated issue and I get that.  I want both of the two camps to read ahead.

WAIT!  Please keep reading.  I swear to God I'm going to say something new about hijab which might surprise you.

If the modest way you act and wear your clothes in public is an intentional, faith-based decision rooted in Islam, then you are wearing hijab.  Basically, ALL of us Muslimahs who follow our faith are wearing hijab.  You need to see that.

None of us are running around naked...right?  Astragferallah for stating the obvious but going around without clothes is on the far end of the immodest spectrum, and once you then realize that then, as long as you're clothed, you are somehow modest.  Totally bare would be IMMODEST.  Get it?

Women who make decisions to cover themselves because they fear Allah are striving for modesty.  Let me say it another way:  if you act and dress in response to an inner morality based in Islam, then let's say that you are somewhere on The Modesty Spectrum.   I've coined this phrase and I like it.  I'm going say that another name for The Modesty Spectrum is hijab.

It isn't about the scarf.  We need to let go of that easy way out.  No, you can't scoff at another woman without a scarf on her head because she might actually be covering herself MORE than you with a scarf on your head.  We are warring with each other over a piece of fabric AND IT AIN'T ABOUT THE FABRIC!

Likewise, if you've been feeling oh-so-secure about your own modesty because you wear the right clothes whereas the Muslim chick over there wears jeans, then stop yourself.  As I said before:  IT AIN'T ABOUT THE FABRIC!  Her heartfelt attempts to cover herself might have more sincerity than yours.  You can't judge your sister and backbite her for what she's done because you simply don't know.  Allah is The Best Judge in all our affairs.

Don't put yourself down because you aren't doing hijab "right".  NO ONE DOES IT 100%.  It's an impossibility to have all the aspects of modesty handled to perfection.  The question isn't how you can look more like the picture you found on Pinterest.  It's about how you can be more authentically YOU.

Remember, hijab is not about a certain style or fashion design.  Hijab is about avoiding undue attention towards yourself; it's a barrier between you and the world.  There are many ways to close yourself off from others.

  • Making the intention to be modest
  • Asking Allah to remove the want for attention from you
  • Asking Allah to forgive your transgressions
  • Identifying supportive friends and family members
  • Refraining from socializing unduly
  • Limiting your glances at men
  • Avoiding men's glances
  • Eliminating men's friendship
  • Being professional not friendly with men in the workplace
  • Covering skin
  • Covering hair
  • Wearing loose clothing
  • Wearing opaque fabrics
  • Keeping clean without extra embellishments
  • Being without attractive scent
  • Speaking in a direct way without flirtation
  • Avoiding loudness
  • Wearing quiet jewelry and shoes
  • Walking without seducing
  • Not listening to music which pulls on nafs
  • Not watching TV and movies which pull on nafs
  • Not reading books which pull on nafs
  • Not fantisizing about men who aren't yours
  • Staying connected to the Quran and hadith

My list isn't in any specific order.  I typed them up randomly and I didn't go from least to most or from first to last.  You could jump around that list as you wish.  Did I leave anything off?

Some of these actions you are already doing.  There might be a few of these which you think are stupid.  Some of these you wish you could do, but you are scared you'd fail if you tried.  God knows all your thoughts and feelings!  He is closer to you than your jugular vein.

Allah has always known that you aren't perfect.  If He had wanted you to be an angel, he could have made you into that.  Instead, he made you imperfectly human.  You are not a perfect Muslim...or even a good Muslim...or a bad Muslim.  You are simply Muslim.  This means you are constantly striving to be better and often failing but never giving up.

Islam Believes in the Spectrum

It is an Islamic ideal to view life as being on a spectrum.  We are not the religion of absolutes, regardless of how the media wants to label us.

There is a hadith, a saying from the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), which is, "Whoever of you sees an evil must then change it with his hand.  If he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his tongue.  And if he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his heart.  And that is the slightest faith."

All of those are good actions.  The Prophet (pbuh) didn't say there is only one action and if you don't perform it, then you've done something bad.  No!  He said there are levels of ability and to do what you can.

There are so many variables for our decisions regarding our modesty. We decide based on upbringing, on culture and media, on our man's opinion (or on our dream man's potential opinion), on the reaction in our place of employment and on our friends' input.  I'm not saying that we should listen to all those factors, but the truth is that we do.

Learning to follow Allah's guidance is a process.  When we negate a woman's process to find modesty, we keep the un-Islamic GOOD or BAD, VIRGIN or WHORE dichotomy alive.  Each Muslimah has found her current place on The Modesty Spectrum---and so have you.  That placement is not stagnant because we are organic beings and we are constantly changing.

It's a process for everyone and no one needs to belittle another person's process.  After all, it doesn't feel good when you get judged, so don't turn around and do it to someone else.  Pretty much everybody's ways could get a thumbs down from some corner of the ummah.  The point isn't who's right or wrong about hijab.  The point is that it's a PROCESS and that we're all in hijab somewhere on The Modesty Spectrum.

Modesty Spectrum

Where are you on The Modesty Spectrum?  That's what you have to figure out.  Are you where you want to be?  Again, that's up to you.

What I'm going to offer, as food for thought, is that ALL OF US could upgrade our hijab.  Each one of us could be more modest.  If we start the process with the intention to become closer to God by protecting ourselves more, then inshahallah nothing will be wrong with the outcome.  Each improvement means that we are leaving behind the norms of the mainstream; becoming more like a stranger to the world.  That's OK.  Let it happen.

I know it's really normal for women to want to show off their bodies or their attractive personalities but you don't have to.  Allah has given you permission to clothe and contain yourself so that you feel comfortable in public.  Some choices we make are from the natural way we are as people but a LOT of what we wear and the way we act is from societal conditioning.  Nurture verses Nature.

Re-examining at Ramadan

Re-examining values at Ramadan is best because you don't have so much of the world weighing you down.  You are releasing your need for following the crowd and remembering that you need to follow Allah.  Pointing the finger at women who don't cover up to your liking is really pointless---get it?  Point LESS?!  It's quick turn of phrase...oh well...I'm fasting so forgive me my bad puns.  We need to have Ramadan be about becoming the best we can to be in this exact moment.

Who you are in this moment?

Ask yourself, "Is this how I want to be?"

I am not going to tell anyone where they should be.  That's between you and God.  If you're married, your husband might have a few things to say about it as well.  I'm not force-feeding; I'm offering food for thought.  I'm not going to tell you how to find a higher level of modesty.  You probably already know exactly what you could do because it pulls on the core of your being.  That common core we all have is our connection to Allah.  If you follow your gut instinct, you will find what you need to do.

May Allah be pleased with your efforts.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ramadan Action: Donate

Asalamu Alaykom,

Right on the heels of my last posting of eliminating the piles in your home, I need to do this one on donating.  They go hand in hand.  If you have honestly assessed your needs then you have discovered you have too much.  You are holding onto somethings you shouldn't.

Many of us think of donations as money.  It's true that, at Ramadan time especially, we think of giving zakat, the poor tax.  Giving usable items to those in need is another way of keeping your blessings flowing.

Those blessings you have might not all be yours.  Think about that.  You might have somebody else's stuff!  God gave it to you in order that you pass it on.  When you hoard, you withhold it from its rightful path.

How do you know that it's not really yours?  You know when something no longer has a function in your life.  It is has ended being integral and has become clutter.  All of the blessings have gone out of it for you.  Let it go to the person who could benefit from Allah's blessings.

When you give during Ramadan, it's better.  For one thing it's easier.  Shaytan is locked up so no one is coaching you to surround yourself with things.  You can see clearer and feel stronger that need for freedom from dunya which pulls us down.  There is also a weak hadith which states good deeds at this time bring extra reward.  It that true?  Don't know!  Won't hurt to try.

My advice on donating is as follows:

  • Don't wonder if you have something to donate because YOU DO.  Start the process with collecting a bag's worth as the goal in mind.
  • Get someone else in on the process.  It amazed me to find out which T-shirts by boy little man didn't actually like.  Why keep what family members don't like?  That's dumb!  Sort through with some input.  It makes it easier to admit that something doesn't work for you or never worked for you.
  • If you're having a hard time giving it away because you treasure it as a memento, then give yourself a day or a week to adjust mentally to the idea of letting it go.  The trick is to not stash that bag away in the closet.  You have to keep it in your living space being obtrusive.  It has to remain in your eyesight and in your way until you get sick of it.  Make the idea of giving it away more attractive than keeping it.
  • Let go of the notion that someone else has to love and care for your donations exactly as you have.  Yes, they might ruin or destroy what you've kept close to you.  They might and you will have to remember that it doesn't mean they are bad people.  They are simply people.  You've probably not been careful with a few things that have been given to you.  
  • Of course, it's best to think considerately of who needs your donation the most.  It's easiest to give to large, impersonal organizations in some kind of drop-off box.  It's harder to look someone in the eyes and ask if they want what you used to own.  Whoever ends up with your stuff is freeing you; you aren't doing them a favor because they are doing YOU a favor.  Don't expect them to be undyingly grateful.  Be thankful that you were able to unload your baggage that was weighing you down.
  • Don't give garbage.  As Muslims we are supposed to give the BEST of what we have, not the worst.  If any of your items are in disrepair or dirty, then you have no business casting them onto someone else.  Somethings really do need to get thrown out.  
  • When you give, it isn't all about the stuff; it's about giving with a kind heart.  Find a way to really connect with a smile when you donate---even at the Salvation Army.  Don't give without putting your heart into it; this isn't putting out the trash.  Your goal is to let the blessings flow so do it in a gracious manner not like the lord of the castle bestowing from upon high.
  • Thank God for what you had and ask God to forgive you for holding onto those things for too long.  Ask to be free from the want of things and to be content with a cleaner life of less is more. 
May Allah make giving this Ramadan easy on you and beneficial to those in your community.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ramadan Action: Attack the Piles

Asalamu Alaykom,

I had to laugh when I read this blog posting from a teacher.

Here's what I left in her comments section:

Asalamu Alaykom,

Hate to tell you, but it doesn't get any better in Egypt! My last day of teaching was June 27 and I've got paper mountains yet to climb. I switched schools and grade levels this year so I made it my goal to sort through all my teaching materials. It's just been too many years of stashing and not sorting through. So far, I've discovered that they can take up a third of the living room floor. With my husband's patience waning, I think I'd better make more of an effort.

Also, I read this HORRIBLE article about a hoarder in Minnesota who died in a fire at his house. Basically, his piles killed him! I can't have things consume my life. I need my house for people not stuff. That story is pushing me to not see my piles as harmless. I need to get some control over them STAT. 

"Piles," by the way are what the British call hemorrhoids. I find that very accurate since these piles around our homes are really a pain in the ...well...I'll stop there.

Thanks for being so honest! And to think I was only coming here to look for figurative language posters!

If you go to that link for that news story, you'll see a video as well.  It is gripping.  You can't look at all those papers and books and still feel the same about yours.  Collecting is not the same as hoarding.  

Unfortunately, there's a little bit of a hoarder in me.  Book lovers are hoarders in disguise!  Teachers are one of the best professions to get into if you want to indulge in hoarding.  "I need to save those displays!  I can't throw out those worksheets!  I might need that realia some day!"

It's such a countrywide problem that A&E has a whole show for this.  You can find out more about it here. The videos aren't loading but you can search around for more.  There are "before and after" photos but I'll warn you that some of them are rather upsetting.  If you're sliding into a life of hoarding, it's not a bad idea to get "scared straight" by the startling sight.  No, your home might not be as bad as that but chances are that you have a few piles as well. 

Oprah has also done shows on this issue.  She has a British expert, Peter Walsh, deal with all aspects of the problem.  No, it isn't all about organizing the stuff;  a lot of it is psychological.  YES, you need to let go---of things, people and the past.  You have to make a house primarily for people NOT for things.  Go to her website for a wealth of information.

For me, I've been asking:
  • I valued this once but does this still help me?
  • Does this keep good energy in my home or does it bring bad energy?  If a emotionally draining thought or story is immediately triggered by an object, then it needs to go.
  • If I'm not using this, can someone else use this as a blessing?  If it is no longer a blessing to anyone, then it needs to be thrown away.
  • Can I free up needed space or sense of self by getting ride of this?

During Ramadan, I see better.  I hate disorder.  I can't eat suhour in a messy kitchen.  I can't throw things in a pile for later.  I'm in attack mode.  Not only do I want my inner being cleaner; I want my surroundings to be cleaner.

I can't handle it all in one day.  It's a HUGE job!  It's not only the physical element of shifting things around. There's a mental component when you come across a trigger to memories or bad feelings.  Ramadan is the best time to combat all of that.  It's a freeing up from dunya and the belief of more MORE MORE!

Inshahallah, you can make your life cleaner during the month of fresh starts.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ramadan Action: You Ain't Got No Quran

Asalamu Alaykom and Jummah Mabrook,

I love this quote which I first saw posted by Yusha Evans:

"What would happen if we treated The Quran the way we treat a cell phone?  Carried it around everywhere we go?  Constantly looked at it many times a day?  Or, we rush back to go get it, if we left it?  Use Quran to receive messages from the text?  Act like we can't live without it?  Give it to children as gifts?  Use it when we travel?  Use it in emergencies?  This is something to make you go, 'Hey!  Where's my Quran?'

There is a way you can have both.  You can have Quran on your phone.  That's what I'm working on this week.  I bought a new phone which has a slot for an extra memory card.  Inshahallah, the mp3 files I have of Sheik Muhamad Jebril will be loaded onto my new mobile.  It is an expense, yet when I think of how important it is for me to hear Quran while I'm traveling to and from school, it is a small investment in my well being.

Do you have Quran on your phone?

If so, when do you find yourself using it?

Are there any unexpected benefits to having it?

What recommendations do you have for others?

A really sobering thought for me is how the early Muslims (blessings upon them), lived and died to receive messages of the Quran.  We live in an age where we have easy access to it, but we don't utilize it like we would...a phone.

Since it is Friday, I want to leave you with some food for thought.  It's not a khutba.  Imam Suhaib Webb is shown on a American CBS news panel discussion from March 31, 2013.  Alhumdulillah, he represents Islam well.  What's great is that you get a feel for the real  possibility of interfaith dialogue.  Though there is a bump in the last minutes, even that tense moment gets resolved.  Alhumdulillah.  No matter your faith, you will appreciate what this dedicated group of faith practitioners has to say.

May Allah accept all your efforts.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ramadan Action: Emailing

Asalamu Alaykom,

I just went through my email address book.  I started with "a" in the recipient field and saw to whom I needed to send a greeting.  Not everyone was a current friend.  Some were former friends.  Some were people I needed to thank.  A few were people with whom I'd had a falling out.

Not everyone was Muslim.  Even if they weren't Muslim, I let them know that it was the first day of Ramadan and that I was sending out greetings.

Through the whole alphabet I went.  Not every person got an email.  If it was someone who brought more trouble into my life than it was worth, I did not write to them.  I did, however, pause and send a good thought into the universe for them.

I started after fajr and wrote until the sun rose.  The sun is shining quietly in Giza.  EVERYONE is asleep.

I feel good.  It's a good start and one I'm going to recommend to you.  Clear your relationships from the beginning.  Be the first to initiate the good wishes.  Be the first to make amends.

It's important to mention that my intention was to write to them NOT to get a response.  If I never get a response, that's fine.  I've got to make that fine or my intention for goodness will get messed up.  I don't want to feel badly for those who aren't able (for whatever reason) to answer back.

Now, I can go back to bed with thoughts that I've shared kindness with people all over the world.  Subhanallah.  While I sleep, I might be making someone smile!  Inshahallah.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ramadan 2013 Begins Wednesday, July 10

Asalamu Alaykom,

I wish everyone a blessed Ramadan.

I ESPECIALLY wish a blessed Ramadan for YOU!  I've written about Ramadan a lot over the years.  Click here to see a collection of postings which you might find interesting.

I'm also posting on a Pinterest board called, "Ramadan and Eid".  Click here to view that.

You need a month of getting closer to God just as much as I we all do.  I hope that Allah accepts your efforts and mine.  At the end of Ramadan, may we be better people and may the world be a better place.

If you need some good Ramadan feelings to start you on your way, watch this video.  I saw it just now and had to post it right away.  Let me know what you feel about it.  I hope you like it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

How to Cope with a Coup

Asalamu Alaykom,

Credit:  Shepard Fairey

Thanks to everyone who gave me some much needed words of support and understanding in my last post.  We all reach low moments and that was one of mine.  It's hard to cope with a coup.

In the interest of serving humankind (and to hopefully internalize it better myself), I'll post:

10 Easy Ways to Cope with a Coup

1.  Tell yourself, "It's not me; it's them."

Though it's happening, it's not happening in you or even to you.  It's happening outside of yourself and you have control over how much to interact with it.  You don't need to get as involved as you think.  You can detach and regain the focus on your life.  Absolutely none of the key players are thinking about you, so you don't need to dwell so much on them.

It's not your country and in many ways it's not your problem.  You are a guest.  You don't have a vote.  Yes, you are a world citizen but leave the big messes to the host and sit quietly in the salon until it blows over.  Your goal is to be seen as a welcomed guest and not an interloper.

2.  Do the dang dishes.

No, you can't control the world outside but you can control what goes on inside your home.  Do the dang dishes.  Don't let your house fall apart around you as it only digs you you into a deeper depression.  Take some baby steps towards controlling the mess in your home.  Stay on schedule with sleeping, praying, eating, and cleaning.

3.  Stop watching the news and Twitter feed.

Bad news is endless if you never turn off the flow of information.  Don't tell yourself that you have to stay in touch with the latest.  No, you don't!  It is going to happen whether you watch or you don't.  Actually, a coup is not a spectator sport.  It doesn't end in three hours.  It's days and months and years.  You can't donate that much time to chaos.

Dr. Christiane Northrup had a very interesting thought on one of her programs.  I've tried to find the quote but I can't.  She said that our minds can't handle the shock value of the world.  We are hearing about mayhem 24/7 and we just weren't made for all that stress.  We can only handle small spheres like a village or a neighborhood.  It makes us healthier to limit the input.

Could you turn on the TV or click onto a site?  Sure, if you do so judiciously.  However, if you know that you have become addicted to the adrenaline rush of news as it happens, then give your body, mind and spirit a break.

Find a way to connect with nature.  If it's safe to go outside then do so.  If you can only stand at your window, then do that.  Watch some birds held aloft by the miracle of flight.  Let your eye find the nests constructed where people never intended.  Marvel at the trees which bend in the wind.  Figure out that you are also a creation and therefore part of the plan.

4.  Shut it.

Modern society has become so open that we venture into conversations we shouldn't.  Don't give your opinion to anyone and everyone in your family, your neighborhood, or workplace.  They don't really want to understand you.  They already have their own opinion!  To enter into a potentially volatile conversation, is dangerous in the short term (a fight) or the long term (ostracizing).

If you are asked about your opinion, have a sound-byte ready.  Want to hear mine?

When asked, "Who do you support?"

I answer, "I love Egypt and I support anyone who is able to help the country."

If they press me for more, saying something like, "Yes, but do you support X,Y and Z?"

I hold firm and answer, "If X, Y and Z can help the country, then I do."

5.  Plan your life, not an escape

It is a mind trap to feel that you are stuck in a bad situation.  None of us are really ever trapped and no situation is 100% bad.  When we feel trapped, we want to suddenly break out and escape.  It is tempting to flee a country in turmoil.  Please remember the old adage, "Out of the frying pan and into the fire."  Sure, there are obvious dangers to living in a place under siege but there are hidden dangers even in peaceful places.  Don't have a knee-jerk reaction to problems.

If you truly feel it's best to leave, then make a plan.  Be methodical.  Have that plan be part of your life's vision and not simply a jumping off from reality.  View the big picture.

6.  Remember why you are here

It's easy to loose sight of the reasons why you came to a country when it's having political upheaval.  All around you will be naysayers and you will feel down from their negations.  Nothing is so one sided that there aren't positives.  What are the positives of the place you're in?  Some used to be and are no longer, but many good things remain, I'm sure.  It isn't about listing both on a sheet of paper.  I'm not talking about arguing "PRO" versus "CON".  No, it's about being grateful for what is and being OK with what isn't...or what used to be.

I came to Egypt for specific reasons.  Most of what I wanted is still here.  Most of what I didn't want in the U.S. is still there as well.

7.  Counter the destructive with creative energy

There is so much super saturation of violence and hate that you've got to counteract the badness with goodness.  Play Quran.  Light some incense, or spray some perfume.  Hold a beautiful flower.  Cuddle a baby.  Make love.  Teach someone a simple but helpful thing or learn something new yourself.  Organize your spices.  Start a project or finish one you've been putting off.  If you want to watch TV, then watch something uplifting like a comedy which brings some laughs, or a documentary which instills knowledge.

None of this will seem normal.  In many ways, it will seem as if you are avoiding the obvious.  Yes, you are!  You are not giving over to the dark forces but allowing in some rays of light.  You are making your little corner of the world better even if someone else wants to make theirs a misery.

8.   Don't blab it all back home

No good will come of you telling exactly how it is to the folks back home.  For starters, it's so out of context for them, they won't understand.  It becomes infuriating when you want to discuss shootings and they want to discuss paint colors.  Their life isn't about where you are and what you're doing.  You left them.  They aren't with you IN MANY WAYS.

Plus, what you say will set off alarms.  They don't need to feel scared for you.  It's not fair.  They didn't sign on to this exotic excursion you're on.  Leave them feeling good about where you are.

If you do feel they are going to be seeing it on the news, then put the events into context.  Let them know how far away the troubles are or how you stay away from rallies and so on.  Help them to see the big picture too.

9.  Ask for protection

God knows where you are and is not oblivious to the risks you are taking.  Ask God for protection.  Put your trust in God.  Truly, you could be in pristine wilderness and be killed by a falling tree (it happened in the U.S. TWICE this past week).  I mean...a TREE?  A killer tree?  Yep.

So, no matter where you are, your time comes.  You need to take your precautions for sure, but after that don't get into fear.  Fear only Allah.  If your time is up, there's nothing you can do to stop it from happening.  If your time isn't up, then LIVE!

10.  Make a conscious choice to be at peace

There are many ways we can usher peace into our lives.  It's there but we clutter up our lives with a million other things.  No time like a coup to de-clutter!  You have the power to be peaceful.  You don't have to stomp around angry at the world or mad at your spouse.  You don't have to yell at your kid or give a bad look to that woman on the street.

Some how you can be better even as it seems the world around you is getting worse.  The funny thing is that if you clean off your own lenses, the world reappears as beautiful and open to possibilities.  See what you can do.  I know you're only one person but the world needs you to be that one person being their full self.

When we are at peace with ourselves, we are at peace with the world.  Accept the truth of this moment and love who you are in this moment.  It isn't perfect and neither are you.  That's the truth.  Within truth, there is peace.

Take a deep breath and live today.  You might as well.

Asalamu Alaykom wa Rahtmatullahi wa Barakatu.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Not Happy July 3rd

Asalamu Alaykom,

This is one of those moments when I'm sorting through my feelings and thoughts.  You, as a reader, can either go with me on this or you don't have to.  Me?  I'm stuck with the jumble.

I don't feel good today.  I woke up next to my son.  We slept in the one safe place in our apartment.  Safe from what?  Safe from whatever could have happened in Egypt last night.  When we went to bed, I didn't know what was going to take place.  I didn't have the energy to stay up and stay vigilant.  I'd done that the night before.  I stayed awake the night before because I was too scared to sleep.  Justified?  My husband didn't think so.

My husband and I are not on the same page.  He slept downstairs last night.  I'm not sure if it was from fear of what could happen or simply from laziness after watching too much Tahrir on TV.  I didn't ask.  I didn't care.  I'm not connected to him today.  I'm at a total disconnect.

He grabbed at my sleeve this morning and pulled me towards him while demanding I speak to him.  I was quiet.  I don't like to get grabbed.  I don't like demands.  I didn't sign on for this.

What did I think I was doing when I moved to Egypt?  I came here on hijrah.  I knew that Mubarak wasn't the real democratic deal.  I got that.  Yet, I felt that the people did the best they could within that framework.

I was disappointed in the chaos of 25th of January.  I didn't support the violence and mayhem.  However it's been portrayed to the media, it was messier in reality.  People died, businesses were ruined, and families remain to this day in fear for their future.

The elections, while flawed, were a step in the right direction.  Yes, I think that democracy is better than military dictatorship.  I don't love the army of any nation.  I'm not with that mentality.  I knew that my husband revered the military, as some schoolboy might, so I did my best not to crash his illusions.  Perhaps my love of democracy was an illusion as well.

I stayed in Egypt.  I'm not asking for a medal.  I stayed because it was good for me and for Mr. Boo.  We are the only two I care about.  If I had to walk away from Egypt, I would not feel that I was leaving my husband bereft.  He has his family, a finished apartment and the possibility of marrying again.

Me?  I don't see my future right now.  I don't see it anywhere---not today.  I don't feel good in Egypt today. I feel betrayed by people I thought I could trust.

This year, at school, I felt such camaraderie.  I felt some kinship.  They were more educated people and more worldly.  They understood me, or so I thought.  On that last day, I was blindsided by a moment in which my sense of who I'd been at work was shaken.  I thought...and I was wrong.  I really didn't have co-workers who liked me.

Since that strange conversation, which I have deleted from the blog, I have sent some nice, short emails to co-workers that I didn't get a chance to say, "goodbye" to.  I just wished them good luck in future endeavors (if they were moving on) or a restful summer (if they were returning).  I haven't heard back from them.  No one returned my greetings.  This is despite many times of togetherness.  I'm hurt---whether or not I should be.

I guess that's the deal with feelings.  You, as a reader, might not understand me----and that's OK.  What I need is to accept the fact that I do feel this way.  I do feel hurt, betrayed and uncertain.  I don't know what I do from this moment with those feelings.

It's not simple.

Yesterday, I heard from my father's lady.  I had written to her (and to him) that we were OK in Egypt.  We were.  She wrote back saying that she had begun to wonder.  My father doesn't wonder because of his Alzheimer's.  She told me something very sad.  His question is no longer where I am but rather if he has any "living relatives".  It's gotten to that level.  He doesn't remember me in his daily life.  If I call, he will talk with me but in the interim, he has stopped to remember me.

That's a grab-a-tissue moment.  I can't allow myself to get too sad today.  That would be dangerous.  I have to remain buoyant.

Mr. Boo felt like eating so I made the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and piled them up, along with a bowl of yogurt, on our IKEA plates.  My mind drifted to what I could fit in a suitcase.  I would take these dishes; they're so utilitarian. I caught myself thinking like this and shook it out of my head but with every bite the thought of leaving would return.

My son has a world map lying on his bed.  He and I had talked about the old posters he had in his room and I took them down this week.  There aren't any animals or alphabet left.  There is the world map waiting for me to adhere.  Today, I'm not sure how I feel sticking it up.  The wall is clean.  There's a part of me which wishes to leave it clean and just walk away.

In many ways, this isn't my home and never will be.  I am not building up a place where I am truly secure.  My husband can always kick me out.  If he dies, his family can always kick me out.  I am here as their guest.  I am here on the third floor for every loud conversation they have at 1 AM.  I am here for every screaming fit from the two little ones.  I am here but I don't know if I want to be here.

The world is in front of me.  I see it.  I see all the places.  I wonder where I'm supposed to be.  My current employer has a vast network of schools all around the world.  It's enticing to think of leaving for one of them.  Maybe there's a school somewhere better for me.  The frightening prospect is that there isn't any place in the world left which could welcome me.  I feel very unwelcome here but does that mean another place is better?

The U.S. Embassy wrote to me again and told me that it recommends leaving Egypt.  Whether or not you fear your current location, you do listen when your government tells you to go.  I just don't know how much I feel like leaving and whether the U.S. is any safer than here.

The United States.  Sure, let's look into that possibility.  My mother is busy and not interested in having us around.  Even if she were so inclined, I don't think that it's a healthy option.  My father, as you've just read, is suffering with his degenerative disease.  Neither one of them are a port in the storm.

I haven't mentioned it before, but I heard two weeks ago that an important person in my life is going through cancer treatment.  This woman was like an aunt to me while I was growing up and she's got inoperable brain cancer.  God bless her.  She cared for me in ways my mothers didn't.  She gave me some of the most normal moments of my childhood.  Her whole family became my family.  I was adopted by them in many ways.  As a child, I was about as close to being an orphan as you can get while your parents are still alive.  That family felt that and picked up the pieces---the pieces of who I was as a little girl.

In a cruel twist, this woman's husband also has Alzheimer's and their whole existence is falling apart.  What do I think about that?  Do I rush to them?  They don't need me.  They have their three children.  They were meaningful to me as a child.  What do I do as an adult?

I'm 45 and I'm lost.  I feel it.  I was feeling so self-assured as the school year was winding up.  I had the whole next year in front of me.  I had Ramadan coming.  I had the summer to organize my life in ways that I hadn't before.  I was going to be on top of it all.

Now?  I feel something else.  I feel alone.  I'm in a country celebrating a military coup a second revolution and I don't feel like celebrating.  I'm away from America on a day when everybody there is celebrating with parades and picnics and I'm not there either.  Even if I was there, I'd be shut out by those who could.

My son and daughter in America have shunned me as much as they can.  While I was in America in 2011, buying them presents and taking them out, they were happy to call me, "Mom".  As soon as I returned to Egypt, they stopped.  I don't have them.  Do I rush to them?  They aren't even in the same state as one another, as my big boy is really a man off at college.  My girl wished me dead the last time I called.  I don't call any more.

Women go on and on and on.  I know.  Men shoot from the hip.  Men say, "What do you want?!"  Men don't want this introspective blah blah.  They want to set a goal and have you to take aim towards that.

Right now?  I don't have that in my sights.  Give me some time and I hope to have it better figured out.  Inshahallah.